Actually, I have been going beyond more than just one comfort zone. I have been trying a lot of new things–from starting art product lines, to growing friendships and alliances in the art industry, to expanding the kinds of art I make to opening up about last year’s health scare.
In essence, I am on a journey to build a new and improved Betsy Skagen. This journey is proving to be both exciting and a wee bit terrifying. This shrine represents what I hope my journey will become. Inside is a rough, lumpy, imperfect and sometimes dark place where ideas percolate and hard work to build a solid a foundation is underway. My hope is that by taking what I imagine and building my dreams, beauty, color and inspiration will spring forth.
I attended Creativation this year and solidified what previously were virtual friendships and made many new friends as well.
I agreed to join the new Eileen Hull Education Team, which has a roster of truly impressive artists. And to ensure fun and learning, I am meeting up with friends to take art classes–including several workshops by the amazing Seth Apter.
And to think, this is only March. I wonder what the rest of the year has in store for me?
Some parts of the journey are scary
Another way I am reaching outside my comfort zone is daring to share a little of last year’s health journey. From 2013 to 2017, I lost 40 pounds–twice. Both times I could not get past a plateau and the weight easily came right back on.
For years I considered gastric bypass surgery and I finally became convinced it was my only solution. Medical research has proven that an overweight person’s body actually fights permanent weight loss–obese people only have a 1 in 210 chance of keeping weight off without surgical intervention.
Despite what some may think, surgery is not an easy way to lose weight. It involves months of preparation, classes, strict dieting and a nasty two-week liquid diet. Plus, I had to give up my beloved Diet Coke. The reason I chose this option was that I wanted a tool to help me achieve permanent weight loss.
I told no one
On April 25 I had roux en y surgery. I told almost no one. I did this for a couple reasons. First, people think gastric bypass is the easy way out (bullshit). Second, my biggest fear was failure–what if I still couldn’t lose the weight or what if I put it right back on? The chubby child inside of me was terrified of people’s derision.
I was supposed to go home the day after surgery. However, something was wrong. Very wrong. I was out of my mind with pain. The hospital kept giving me the maximum amount of painkillers and it wasn’t helping. The docs told me I could not go home.
The next day things went from very bad to life threatening. For me it was a blur of excruciating pain, worried doctors and medical tests.
My secret was out
Remember how I hadn’t told people about my surgery? At this point, my husband and I decided we needed to do the right thing and begin letting important people in our lives know what was going on. Much to my dismay, I couldn’t keep the surgery a secret any longer. That afternoon, before we could tell many people, my vitals started dropping and 15 minutes later I was rushed down to surgery. They opened me up chest to belly button to find the problem.
That problem turned out to be that during the first surgery the doctor had punctured my small intestine. The contents inside my small intestine were leaking out and poisoning my entire body.
What followed was two incredibly painful weeks in the hospital, sepsis, a scary infection near my lungs, a horrible open wound in my belly to let infection out, a 20 pound gain from fluids, ridiculously swollen limbs and then nursing care at home–all while I was supposed to be relishing my daughter’s last month as a high school senior.
Over the summer and fall, my small business suffered as I slowly healed. Despite that, I was thankful to be alive and happy that I was finally losing weight. During August and September 80 percent of my hair fell out from trauma and nutritional deficiencies. I then developed an large incisional hernia that I call my “alien baby bump”. This will eventually require another–supposedly painful– surgery to rebuild my abdominal wall. Oh joy.
My greatest fear
This was all hard, but the worse was yet to come. Less than six months after surgery, I began regaining weight. I now can eat anything and everything without any of the impediments that the surgery was supposed to provide. Worse, my craving for sugar actually increased. I underwent more tests and found out that the surgeon had made my stomach much bigger than it should be. My biggest fear of regaining the weight was coming true.
I am working hard to not return to my old weight, but frankly there’s a good chance it could happen. Because of the initial surgery, my metabolism has changed so that I have to keep my daily calorie intake lower than what a normal person consumes.
Taking what I imagine to build my dreams
Today I am counting calories, exercising religiously and hoping I can lose more weight. I am angry that this routine surgery went terribly wrong, but also very grateful that I survived the ordeal.
When I was finally able to work a couple hours at a time, I began working in earnest on some ways to move my art career forward. I was inspired to take what I imagine and build my dreams.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. -Betsy
Psssssst–If you would like to learn how to make the this imagination box, please stop by Gypsy Soul Laser Cuts for a free tutorial.
- ATC Shrine with Feet
- Vintage Bulbs–Coming soon from Gypsy Soul Laser Cuts
- Hardware Silhouettes–Coming soon from Gypsy Soul Laser Cuts
- Beacon Fabri-Tac
- Texture Paste
- Tea Dye Spray Distress Ink
- Soot Black Distress Ink
- Acrylic paint: quinacridone nickel azo gold, burnt umber and metallic gold
- Duct tape
- White wire